Donald Rayfield

Dispatches From Russia

A Russian Diary

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Harvill Secker 323pp £17.99 order from our bookshop

Beslan: The Tragedy of School No.1

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Granta Books 291pp £10.99 order from our bookshop

Russia’s Islamic Threat

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Yale University Press 349pp £25 order from our bookshop

Anyone who takes these books to heart will wonder whether we are in a situation ominously similar to that of 1935, when the menace of Hitler’s Germany left the bulk of Britain’s and America’s politicians completely unperturbed. In one way we are worse off: at least during the Thirties there was Winston Churchill, with the necessary stature and persistence to go on crying wolf. Now not one figure in our political establishment dares utter a word. Even after killing Litvinenko and shamelessly leaving a trail of radioactivity across London, Putin’s men have total impunity: a Russian hospital nurse might be refused a visa by the British Consulate, lest she seek work in the NHS, but an FSB killer – never. Our cowardly politicians’ main mistake is to assume (as does Gordon Hahn in his book) that we have only one enemy – Islamic terrorism – and can therefore ignore Russia’s reversion to brutal and totally corrupt autocracy. In any case, a demonstration of moral courage might force our government to look for other sources of gas and oil.

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